The Crown executive producer says shows about UK at risk with rise of streaming

Co-executive producer of hit drama series The Crown, Andy Harries, has warned public broadcasters are looking “increasingly vulnerable” amid the rise of streaming services and said this will put shows “about us and our lives in the UK” at risk.

Harries, who is the chief executive and co-founder of production company Left Bank Pictures, made an address as he picked up the Harvey Lee Award for outstanding contribution to broadcasting on Thursday at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards 2024 held at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London.

He said: “TV today is very different from the days of the duopoly of the BBC and ITV.

Our Planet Global Premiere – London
Andy Harries and Emmy Harries attending the global premiere of Netflix’s Our Planet (Ian West/PA)

“Streamers, and Netflix in particular, have changed everything, especially for me.

“The Crown would never have been made if Netflix had not bought it.

“They had the money, they shared our ambition for it, and they always understood the brand value of the other ‘royal family’ in a global market.

“There are more broadcasters than ever before, more opportunities, and the tax breaks reflect a Government who are slowly understanding how important the creative industries are to our economy.

“TV is a big business and we are very good at it, much of our top UK talent play a key part in US funded TV shows, and mega Hollywood movies are being shot here in the UK.

“But despite all our success, I am worried that the very heart of our UK business, our public broadcasters, are increasingly looking vulnerable with ad money now draining from ITV and C4 to Amazon and Netflix, and the BBC’s licence fee falling far short of the rate of inflation.

“This means that all of their drama budgets are under huge pressure and the sort of shows that are at risk in the future are the ones about us and our lives in the UK.”

The BBC licence fee has been frozen for two years but will increase by £10.50 to £169.50 a year in April.

He added: “Are we in danger of our business ending up as a first class, top-end service industry to the US at the expense of our own experiences, shows that reflect our own lives in the UK?”

Harries heralded ITV series Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, about Post Office workers fighting for justice, and said it was “touch and go” whether the series would ever be made, explaining the cast took a pay cut to get production under way.

He also said that we “live in times when drama on TV is becoming de-politicised” and claimed that “no global company is rushing to make dramas which involve religious, racial, or political controversy”.

Harries called upon the Labour Party, if it achieves power in the next general election, to increase the BBC licence fee and said: “Our industry needs a healthy BBC, and the BBC keeps us British, its role in our society is unique and unifying.”